In Common With Creates Custom Lighting for the Creative Class
Cutting edge, custom-designed lighting and furniture have long been the domain of the ultra rich only, leaving the masses to scour Ikea for something affordable that doesn’t happen to also look flimsy or terrible. But Felicia Hung and Nicholas Ozemba know that the world doesn’t have to be this way, founding their design company In Common With to provide affordable access to custom-made lighting, furniture, and objects. And it’s worked out well for them, garnering them attention from the likes of The New York Times as well as a coveted slot in Sight Unseen’s Offsite pop-up shop at 201 Mulberry in Manhattan. Impressed with their work, O.N.S recently visited them to talk about founding their own company, meeting at art school, and the design philosophy that undergirds their incredible work.
First off, we are rather intrigued with how you two met. Can you tell us about that? What led you to start In Common With?
We both met on the first day of college at the Rhode Island School of Design [RISD], where we studied furniture design. We ended up having almost all of the same classes so we gravitated towards one-another quickly and soon learned we had similar views, values, and aesthetic. It was natural and pretty much a given that we would eventually start a studio together.
Made-to-order lighting is a rather niche concept. What sets In Common With apart from bigger, more established furniture and lighting companies?
Custom design certainly exists, but it often comes at a premium cost, and we’re trying to change that. We believe all consumers deserve unique objects that reflect their individual needs, habits, and style. Instead of stocking finished products, we utilize an on-demand manufacturing model, which allows us to make unique products with our customers. Our model is interactive in the sense that we immerse our clients in the experience. We design all of our collections around a family of modular components, and create parameters that each customer can alter based on their needs. It creates a very personal story and connection behind each object. Most products are mass-produced in advance which can lead to overstock and waste. Everything we produce, on the other hand, has been sold before it has been made and is shipped directly to the customer. This approach reduces the risk of un-sold goods ending up in a landfill.
Was designing furniture something you always wanted to do? Why go lighting out of all the other categories?
The furniture department at RISD wasn’t so much about making furniture as it was understanding materials and building solutions. Lighting is a relatively contemporary medium, and is one of the most inexpensive and effective ways to enhance a space. The scale of lighting and furniture proved to be a natural medium for us as it’s large enough that it can transform the feeling of a space, but small enough that we can create an affordable yet fully-customizable design.
When creating the concept for In Common With, where did you pull inspiration from?
We’re very much inspired by materials and specific manufacturing techniques. We work one-on-one with a handful of skilled artisans, who each bring a unique knowledge of material and technique which informs every aspect of the design process.
In addition to your innovative use of clay, are there any go-to materials you like to use? Why are these unique materials essential to you in creating In Common With lighting fixtures?
We try to understand and work with materials in the way they want to be used. Earthenware has been used for centuries, and we’ve always been attracted to its raw and natural quality. We’re also itching to do something with linen!
How does one go about making their own lighting fixtures via the In Common With formula? Please explain the process.
We start with a primary form and within that form there are a series of things you are able to change and alter, like the size, shape, and material. We’re working on an online customization editor, which allows consumers to see exactly what they are going to get before it’s even been made. Until that launches, the process is more intimate. We usually we sit down with a client and create a few sketches to work out the details of what they are looking for.
In Common With has been gaining traction and you were recently included in the Sight Unseen Offsite pop-up. How have people responded to your brand now that you’ve been getting more press?
Most of the feedback has been positive and the products seem pretty well received.
This Is Open Space seems to be a big supporter of In Common With. How did this collaboration come to fruition?
We made a number of custom light fixtures for our friends at Domicile, a small coffee shop in Brooklyn who we found through Instagram. Jess, who is the mastermind behind the HOME pop-up, stumbled upon our work there and immediately reached out. This Open Space is all about bringing together direct-to-consumer brands in a physical store, and we hope to continue to work with them in cities all over the world.
What are you most hyped about this summer for In Common With? Can you also elaborate on any upcoming projects for this summer?
We have a handful of collaborations that we’re excited to see installed in the next few months. We’ve been working with a glass artist and ceramic studio on some exciting pieces that we’re hoping to launch this fall. And we’ve got a few other top-secret projects are in the works too!
Be sure to follow In Common With on IG here.